From Asset to Anvil?
The week before his convention in St. Paul, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain was staring at the prospect of Mayhem on the Mississippi. Conservatives, not overly enamored with the senator from Arizona in the first place, were threatening to revolt. They shot down the trial balloon of Sen. Joe Lieberman with all the efficiency of a surface-to-air missile. But then McCain did something unexpected, shocking even. He chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate.
The wildly popular Alaska governor has only been in office since December 2006. She was largely unknown to the Axis of Evil (aka the Washington elite, the media elite, you get the picture). But not to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Palin's selection ignited an enthusiasm among delegates that exploded during her triumphant acceptance speech at the Xcel Center.
Originally, McCain and Palin were expected to campaign separately, as is the custom. You can cover more ground and get the campaign's message to more people that way. But the campaign enveloped Palin in a bear hug. Not because the press greeting her nomination was the very definition of ferocious. But because without Palin, McCain was nothing. The crowds at his rallies after the convention were there to see her. They wanted to hear her hockey-mom-pit-bull-lipstick joke, and the line about putting the state plane on eBay, for themselves.
The McCain-Palin ticket mugged Obama of his change mantra. And the polls soared. As The Washington Post reported on Sept. 9, Sen. Barack Obama's lead over McCain evaporated thanks in large part to white women swinging from him to McCain. "White women shifted from an eight-point pre-convention edge for Obama to a 12-point McCain advantage now," the story noted.
But that was then. And in retrospect, the Palin bloom may have started to fade a mere two days later.
In an interview with ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson that aired on Sept. 11, Palin was unable to discuss the Bush doctrine (any of the permutations of it). Her discussion about how Russia being a neighbor of Alaska gave her foreign policy experience was instantly lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Tina Fey, the governor's comedic twin. Palin's interviews with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric that have been airing since last week have been even worse. With each passing night, there's a new cringe-worthy moment where you find yourself watching Palin like you would a newborn attempting to take her first steps.
And the polls have sunk, turning Sarah the Barracuda into Sarah the Anvil. In the Washington Post-ABC News poll released today, 60 percent of those surveyed said Palin did not have "the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, if that became necessary." That's up from 45 percent in early September. Her unfavorables have jumped from 28 percent to 40 percent over the same period. And here's the bad news for McCain: In early September, 19 percent said they were less likely to vote for McCain because of his selection of Palin. That number is now 32 percent.
The McCain campaign may now keep Palin in that bear hug to prevent her from inflicting more damage. Making tonight's debate the performance of her -- and McCain's -- political life.
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